Jet-printing nanostructures with self-assembling material
Collaboration between three inter-continental universities has resulted in a method of using ink-jet printing technology to create nanostructures. Self-assembling block copolymers were used, which are capable of spontaneously forming ultrafine structures.
Nine researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Chicago and Hanyang University in Korea made up the team. Their research hinged on improving the already impressive 100-200 nanometer resolution potential of previous ultrahigh resolution ink-jet printing techniques.
By combining jet printing with self-assembling block copolymers, the engineers were able to achieve a truly nanoscale dimension. They capitalized on the self-assembling nature of the block copolymer by manipulating it with an underlying template, resulting in patterns of a far higher resolution than the template itself.
This innovation means that the technology can be used to design a much wider range of devices due to the fact that block copolymers can be deposited with different dimension structures within a single layer.
‘Moreover, the different dimension patterns may actually be directed to assemble with either the same or different templates in different regions,’ adds Professor Paul Nealey, a co-author of the paper published in Nature Nanotechnology.
In essence much like the ink jet printers used in conventional offices, the advanced process is called electrohydrodynamic printing – or e-jet printing.
‘The most interesting aspect of this work is the ability to combine “top-down” techniques of jet printing with “bottom-up” processes of self-assembly, in a way that opens up new capabilities in lithography—applicable to soft and hard materials alike,’ said John Rogers, the Swanlund Chair Professor in Materials Science and Engineering at Illinois.
Image courtesy of Serdar Onses/University of Illinois-Urbana.